Vancouver Neighbourhoods: Kitsilano

Welcome to dazzling Kitsilano! (Tourism Vancouver/Tanya Goehring)

In the ‘60s, beachside Kitsilano was considered Vancouver’s hipster hangout; today, the neighbourhood has flourished into a trendy hub appealing to sun-worshippers, yogis, wellness warriors and shopaholics alike (it’s also the birthplace of global yoga brand lululemon athletica). Kitsilano is a healthy combination of parks, beachfront, the shopping mecca of West 4th Avenue, cozy coffeeshops and eclectic eateries.

History
For thousands of years, the Kitsilano area has been home to the Squamish Nation, who have shared the territory with the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. The name “Kitsilano” pays homage to Squamish Chief August Jack Khatsahlano, whose people were displaced in 1901 by the federal government.

Early settlers to Kitsilano were primarily involved in logging and milling, as the region consisted mostly of dense rainforest. In fact, Greer Beach – now Kitsilano Beach – was a popular camping destination; however, when tenting was banned the area surrounding the beach was transformed into a city park. After streetcar service to the district debuted in the 1890s, more of Kitsilano was made accessible to downtown residents and visitors. Around the same time, the Vancouver Lawn Tennis Club rose to popularity among the local elite, hosting annual championship games that attracted even more visitors.

Kitsilano was fairly inexpensive in the ‘60s, and therefore saw a surge of residency among hippies and others entrenched in the counterculture movement. It was home to the much-loved Soft Rock Café, a coffee house music venue; as well as The Naam, whose vegetarian and vegan cuisine continue to fuel diners to this day. Greenpeace’s offices were also located in Kitsilano, as were the first offices of the Green Party of British Columbia.

Today, Kitsilano is mostly residential with West 4th Avenue and West Broadway making up the neighbourhood’s two main commercial arteries. Many celebrity and environmental figures have made Kitsilano their home over the years, including David Suzuki, Ryan Reynolds, Joshua Jackson and William Gibson.

Dining and Nightlife
Staying true to its hipster roots, Kits is home to one of the city’s oldest vegetarian restaurants, The Naam – but there are plenty of alternative options for healthy, organic and farm-to-table fare, including Aphrodite’s Organic Café, known for organic food and incredible pies; and Sejuiced, keeping visitors well-stocked with fresh-pressed juices and smoothies. Along the waterfront, you’ll find casual neighbourhood bars perfect for patio lounging, such as LOCAL Public Eatery, whose beach-facing deck is one of the most coveted spots in the city come summer. Kits is also an excellent place to sample top-tier cuisine; a few suggestions are AnnaLena, whose Lego art décor makes for an amusing amuse-bouche; East is East, an intimate space whose flavourful offerings are inspired by the silk route; and CACAO, serving exquisite Latin American cuisine.

Shopping

It’s all about the lifestyle in Kits! (Tourism Vancouver/Hubert Kang)

Lifestyle shopping is rampant in Kits, and the best place to start is lululemon athletica on West 4th, where you can scoop up coveted yoga and activewear. There are also plenty of outdoor apparel companies, vintage shops, beauty and skincare stores, and holistic spas to keep you and your wallet occupied for hours. Kits is a great neighbourhood to shop for locally made goodies and gifts to bring home to friends and family.

Things to See and Do

Everyone is welcome to join in beach volleyball at Kits. (Tourism Vancouver/Nelson Mouellic)

Vanier Park is home to some of Vancouver’s most family-friendly attractions, including the Museum of Vancouver; H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and its observatory, the latter of which is open to stargazers every Saturday night by donation; and the Vancouver Maritime Museum. In the summer, the area comes alive with theatre-goers attending the annual Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, whose shows are staged at sunset against a dramatic waterfront backdrop.

Did you know Kits Pool is the longest in North America? (Kitsilano Chamber of Commerce)

Continuing down towards the water you’ll find Kitsilano Beach, a buzzy hotspot that bustles with activity in warmer months; here, you’ll find epic beach volleyball, picnicking families and lots of tanned flesh on display. There’s also Kits Pool, an outdoor saltwater pool situated oceanside that hold distinction as the longest in North America.

Community festivals are numerous in Kits with year-round amusements spanning Greek Day on Broadway, the climax event of Vancouver’s annual Greek Heritage Month festival; and Khatsalano Street Party, a free music and arts festival featuring local artisans, street performances, tasty food, giveaways and beer gardens.

Whatever your pleasure, there’s lots to see and do in Kitsilano – and the best way, in true Kits fashion, is to grab a coffee and explore at your leisure.

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